Friday, June 9, 2023


Jack Higgins (real name Harry Patterson, 1929-2022) was just getting his feet wet as an author when Seven Pillars to Hell was published. It was printed in 1963 by Abelard-Schuman under Patterson's pseudonym Hugh Marlowe. Mostly, the book went unnoticed and remained out of print for decades. Long after Jack Higgins became a household name, the author made revisions to his earlier works and saw them reprinted. Such is the case with Seven Pillars to Hell, which was revised into the 1995 novel Sheba, published by Berkley. I chose to read and review this version.

The book begins in Germany in 1939 with a select group of advisers meeting with Hitler on his plans to invade Poland. To avoid British interference, the men devise a method to blow up the Suez Canal. But, the problem arises with the immense distances required to fuel and attack the strategic location. When a colleague proposes that he has discovered the location of the legendary Temple of Sheba, buried in the ruthless Empty Quarter desert, the Germans create Operation Sheba to utilize this lost ancient structure as a supply depot for aircraft. 

A few months later, Higgins introduces Sheba's star hero, Gavin Kane, an Indiana Jones type of adventurer that is an archaeologist and nautical smuggler. After one of his illegal sea-run trades, Kane meets a woman who offers to pay him to locate her husband. Coincidentally, her husband is the professor that originally discovered the Temple of Sheba. Chances are that the man was killed, but Kane is a businessman and accepts the job. 

Sheba is saturated with fast-paced action sequences, most of which culminate in the hot desert sands as Kane, his associates, and his employer are on the run from Nazis. Like King Solomon's Mines, for example, the book's second half is mostly presented as a treasure hunt in the temple's underground passageways and secret tunnels. But, a brutal survival element is introduced that places characters forging for freedom through the harsh elements. 

Higgins is one of the best adventure writers of all-time, so his imagination and storytelling is superb as the book kicks into the third and final act. In some ways, a lot of his novels have a similar theme with WW2 historical vines weaving in and out of iron-fisted, strong-armed heroic fantasy (swords traded for machine guns). Once again, Higgins knocked my socks off with one of the better books I've read by him. This one was really something special and I'm glad it now exists in multiple formats for lifetimes to come. Highly recommended! 

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

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